American Realness

Cynthia Oliver

Virago-Man Dem

Curated by Craig Peterson

Saturday, January 7, 6:00pm

Run Time: 45 minutes

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center
280 Broadway Entrance at 53A Chambers Street / Free / RSVP

Virago-Man Dem navigates black masculinities through movement, and spoken language and visual design. Troubling the term “Virago’s” reference to characteristically male behaviors and female cultural transgressions, Virago-Man Dem is a nuanced study in the multiplicities of masculinity within cultures of Caribbean and African American communities. The work is based on the lives of its performers, Duane Cyrus, Jonathan Gonzalez, Shamar Watt, and Niall Noel Jones, and moves from their specific experiences to broader cultural trajectories.

Photo by Chris Cameron

Cynthia Oliver creates performance collages that move from dance to word to sound and back again toward an eclectic and provocative dance theatre. A Bronx born, Virgin Island reared performer, she incorporates the textures of Caribbean performance with African, and American, aesthetic sensibilities. She has been awarded and/or commissioned by the Franklin Furnace, The Puffin Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund for Minority Artisits, NYSCA, 92nd St Y Harkness Center for Dance, Performance Space 122, Dance Theater Workshop, The National Performance Network, Creative Capital, The Rockefeller MAP Fund, New England Foundation for the Arts (NDP), the Pew Charitable Trust, The University of Illinois Research Board, and the Illinois Arts Council. In 1995/96 Cynthia won a New York Dance and Performance Award (a Bessie) for her evening length work “Death’s Door.” In 2000 she was called, “Outstanding Young Choreographer” by reviewer Frank Werner in the German magazine Ballet Tanz. She was featured in Dance Magazine’s April 2002 article on Artists who balance academe and the professional arena. In 2007 she appeared in Arts Across Illinois, a series presenting Illinois artists and their work on local Public Television, and in 2009 Cynthia was honored with a Cal Arts Alpert Award nomination. In 2011 Cynthia received a University Scholar nomination only award from the University of Illinois and has recently received her second Illinois Arts Council Choreography Fellowship.

Her dance theatre work has been has been performed across the country in festivals and spaces like the The Public Theatre, The Kitchen, Performance Space 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, and Aaron Davis Hall in New York City; NOCCA, in New Orleans; Links Hall, the Hot House, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago and Urbana, IL; The Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas in Seattle; the Dance Place in Washington D.C.; The Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia PA; and Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston Maine, amongst many others. Her choreography for theatre has been performed at Minnesota’s Penumbra and Pillsbury House Theaters, New York’s La MaMa Etc., Syncronicity Space, and Aaron Davis Hall. In 2004 Cynthia’s work made the leap across the pond when she collaborated with German Filmmaker Marcus Behrens of European arts channel Canal Arte to adapt her evening length work AfroSocialiteLifeDiva for film which aired on Canal Arte in 2005 and Germany, Austria and Switzerland’s 3Sat Arts Channel in 2006. In 2012 she was invited to Oagadougou, Burkina Faso, via the Suitcase Fund, to work with a group of 16 women dance artists, creating a choreography which spoke to their empowerment as creative artists who negotiate complex traditions that may in fact impede their art.

She has danced with Theatre Dance Inc. and the Caribbean Dance Company of St. Croix, Virgin Islands. In New York she has danced with independent choreographers Janine Williams, Andrea E. Woods, and Patricia Hoffbauer and with many companies including the David Gordon Pick Up Co., the Prowess DanceArts Collective, Ronald Kevin Brown/Evidence, Bebe Miller Company and Tere O’Connor Dance. As an actor Cynthia has performed in works by Greg Tate, Ione, Laurie Carlos, and Ntozake Shange.

In addition to Cynthia’s performance work, she holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University. Her scholarly work has focused on performance in the Anglophone Caribbean. She has taught at New York University’s Department of Drama, Tisch School of the Arts, The Newcomb Summer Dance Intensive at Tulane University, Florida State University, and the University of Utah. She is Professor of Dance at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.